One of the tasks Bruce accomplished on our last trip to the farm was to learn how to lift a tree and fell a tree. Bruce explains:
Crown lifting involves cutting off the lower branches of the pine trees to encourage them to grown into better trees that are more valuable. It is referred to as crown lifting, maybe because after you are done the trees appear to have been lifted off the ground on tall poles.
The trees are more valuable as lumber if they have fewer knots and are shaped more like cylinders than teepees. If the lower limbs are removed as the tree grows, the trunk will have smaller knots. Secondly, left alone the trunk will reduce in diameter at each ring of branches, as energy and food is sent out to the branches. If those branches are removed the reduction in size will be reduced as the energy and food is sent on up the trunk to the remaining branches.
The process starts when the tree is about 6 feet high; any branches that exist on the lower half of the tree are cut off. This continues every few years until the branches you need to cut are higher than you are willing to go or you tire of the effort. When cutting off the lower branches on pine trees you follow the same rules as cutting branches off most trees. Remove as much of the branch as you can without damaging the collar. The collar is a growth around where the branch exits the trunk of the tree. It looks like a bit of swollen bark surrounding the limb. This collar contains special cells that have the ability to isolate the cut and then grow to cover the spot where the limb exited the trunk. Once the collar does its thing, the trunk of the tree will continue to expand as if the limb was never there which is one of the key goals. If, in the process of cutting off the limb, you leave too long of a stub on the trunk the collar cells will not be able to isolate and cover the cut. If, when cutting off the limb, the cut extends too far into the collar the collar cells will be damaged to the point where they cannot isolate and cover the cut. Both cases will leave a blemish on the trunk that reduce the value of the tree and could provide a path for a pathogen to enter and destroy the tree.
An added benefit of this process is reduced forest fire risk, a home that is more easily defended in the case of forest fire and forest that is likely to sustain less damage in the event of a forest fire.
Then there is the exercise benefit. This is good aerobic outdoor exercise, done in the winter when the sap is in the roots and other gardening activities are minimized by cold and rain. This is a great reason to be in the woods, among the wildlife, and enjoying life.
We have a wood burning stove that will consume about 4 cords of firewood a year to warm the house during the winter. The farm includes about a ¼-mile stretch of the Archambeau creek and two swales that grow trees suited for firewood. The plan is to cut wood off this riparian portion of the farm to provide the firewood and to maintain the stand of trees so that this is a sustainable activity over the long term. The trees growing in these sections of land are mostly Ash, with some White and Black Oak, and a few Madrone. All of these are good sources of heat. The Ash trees are well adapted to this wet environment and are plentiful. Over time, I hope to learn how to manage the harvest of firewood in balance with erosion control, regeneration, biodiversity and a healthy riparian habitat.
Back to me: I tagged along to take photos of the whole operation. I now understand a bit more about how people get trapped under a felled tree. That tree came down fast. Even though I was waiting and waiting for it to fall, when it did I only had time to point my camera in the general direction and push the button. Scary and cool. While I can’t see myself ever using a chain saw I think it might not be too bad to do some lifting. For this day, wandering around, investigating the land, and taking photos was the best choice.